Master Gardeners grow plants and communities

By Debbie Dalhouse

Master Gardeners – people who take care of plants and communities – are hard at work across the state. This program is conducted through the Clemson Extension Service and includes 40 hours of intensive, practical horticultural training followed by at least 40 hours of volunteer service to their community.

In the training phase, Master Gardener candidates learn the basics about soils, landscape design, lawn management, disease and pest management, and the care and feeding of all types of plants from vegetables and flowers to trees and shrubs. Continuing education is also available through workshops and conferences.

“Once the basic training is completed, Master Gardeners go to work,” said Bob Polomski,
State Master Gardener Coordinator for Clemson. In 2003-04, Master Gardener volunteers donated more than 38,000 hours of service to communities across South Carolina.

These services include “Plant a Row for the Hungry” programs in Berkeley, Charleston, and Dorchester counties. There, Master Gardeners work with local charities to grow, collect and distribute more than 80,000 pounds per year of fresh fruits and vegetables for the elderly and disadvantaged citizens. Other Master Gardeners provide landscaping services that beautify public areas such as local schools, parks, and historic sites around the state.

In 2003-04, some 1,780 people completed the Master Gardener training program. In addition to their other services, Master Gardener volunteers advised more than 37,000 South Carolina residents on lawn and garden problems through county Extension offices, educational programs, community activities, and the Urban Horticulture Center at Riverbanks Zoo, which serves more than 16,000 visitors per year.

For more information, go to http://www.clemson.edu/extension/ and click “Master Gardener’s program” under Horticulture (Urban).